Nashua School District Staff Should Not be a Protected Class - Granite Grok

Nashua School District Staff Should Not be a Protected Class

Spend Spending

On Friday, March 13th the Nashua Board of Education voted to provide full compensation to all district personnel for five days from March 16th to 23rd while shutting down the schools. There was no discussion of the cost to taxpayers as these funds were already in this year’s budget.

The vote was an emergency measure. It was extended through April 3rd after the governor’s subsequent orders. This compensation cost roughly $300,000 per day for salaries. Overall, the initial cost to taxpayers was roughly $4.5 million.

On Monday, March 30th, the Board meets again to discuss staff compensation, this time from April 3rd through May 4th. Unlike the last meeting, this meeting won’t be held where taxpayers can physically attend due to social distancing concerns. It will be held online using Zoom.

Only board members and district administrators are invited to log in. The public can observe the meeting on Channel 99 and the local ETV channel. Why? Teachers use Zoom to interact with students at home. Why not provide public comment using Zoom?

City Attorney Steve Bolton posted on Facebook that there’s no legal requirement for public comment. So the school board is not concerned about public comment.

But, there are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be asked.

Why not allow public comments in real-time? What about the fiscal impact of these decisions upon taxpayers, many of whom have recently lost their jobs and compensation? There are predictions of revenue shortfalls coming. Why the lack of concern for the public?

Many restaurants and other “non-essential” businesses have been shut down. These folks will be required to pay district salaries – despite their own unemployment. Moreover, they are now being asked to teach their children at home during the district shut down.

Aren’t parents partners in education? Yet, they are excluded from these discussions.

Many expect an explanation of the costs for the shutdown. A discussion of possible ways to downsize to “essential” staff, if only temporary, would be reasonable. The cost for 25 more days at full compensation while staying at home is $7.5 million.

One Nashua school teacher posted on social media that not paying district staff their full salaries and benefits would “destroy families and lives.” He doesn’t seem to be worried about the families and lives of unemployed residents who worked at “non-essential” businesses. They’re already damaged and will be further damaged by unnecessary spending.

Nashua teachers recently held several parades on Friday, March 27th across the city, reminding students and families that they “missed their students.” They did these parades with taxpayer-funded police escorts on the last business day before the Monday Board meeting. Isn’t that interesting?

Full compensation would be great for all district employees. We all want that. But the question remains: is it sustainable in the face of predicted revenue shortfalls and recent unemployment increases? Is it fair to residents who are unemployed?

They’re good people too, yet they’re on unemployment. Is full compensation for the district equitable? Aren’t “We All In This Together”?

Has anyone considered whether some members of district staff could be better utilized elsewhere? For instance, given the predicted hospital patient overflow, school nurses might be better utilized in hospitals. Why pay them to stay home without anything to do?

What use are librarians with the schools shut down? What about guidance counselors, other than for seniors completing college applications? What about other district administrators? Do we need dozens of kindergarten teachers to issue daily lesson plans to meet the recommended 45 minutes of school commitment time? Can some positions be consolidated? Why is there no meaningful discussion on which employees are “essential” during the shutdown?

District staff should not be a protected class — immune from fiscal downturns and the uncertainties of viral pandemics. Nor should public comment be shut down.

Reference:

(1) Nashua Board of Education Agenda for March 30th includes compensation for district employees after the initial shutdown deadline of April 3rd with no provision for public comment.
(2) Comments of NTU President Adam Marcoux requesting full salaries for all district employees.
(3) Memo from:
NHSBA  (NH School Board Association),
NHSAA (NH School Administrators Association),
NEA-NH (Nat. Educators Assoc – NH),
NHASP (NH Assoc. of School Psychologists),
NHCTA (NH CTE Directors) and
NHASEA (NH Assoc. of Special Education Administrators)